WASHINGTON, DC – Only a five-point UDC lead with under six minutes left to play, the Firebirds closed out today's East Coast Conference battle vs. Mercy College on a 14-4 surge, as the University of the District of Columbia earned a pivotal conference victory on Sunday afternoon by a final score of 79-64.
With today's win, UDC improved to 13-11 overall and 10-6 in league play, as the Firebirds continue to jockey with several other teams for seeding in the six-team ECC playoff. UDC also completed the season sweep against the Mavericks and improved to 9-3 at home this year. Mercy, meanwhile, fell to 2-23 overall and 0-16 in league play as the Mavericks have now lost 15 straight games.
Senior guard Joseph Nickerson notched his 5th double-double of the season as he packed the stat sheet today with a team-high 18 points, game-highs of 10 rebounds and eight assists, a career-high seven steals, and one blocked shot. He entered today's game ranked No. 2 in the nation for steals per-game, and he now has 71 steals this season through 22 games played.
Nickerson was one of five Firebirds to score in double-figures. Junior guard Traevon Butler registered 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and one steal. Senior point guard Kasim Chandler added 12 points, five assists, four rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot. Reserve guard Reggie Sidbury pitched in 13 points, including 3-of-7 shooting behind-the-arc, and junior center Kyle Williams shot 6-of-7 from the field to finish with 12 points, seven rebounds and one blocked shot.
As a team, UDC out-shot Mercy 48-percent (31-of-64) to 36-percent (20-of-55) from the field and 44-percent (12-of-27) to 26-percent (5-of-19) from three-point range. The Firebirds also had a 39-33 rebounding edge, more than doubled-up the Mavericks in assists (24-11), and out-scored Mercy 34-28 in the paint.
The Mavericks featured three scorers in double-figures, including a game-high 22 points by guard Raphael Jennings, and a double-double performance of 10 points and 10 rebounds by forward Kelvin Howard, who also had a team-best six steals.
Mercy had the hot-hand early as local product out of Temple Hills, MD, Kelvin Howard, buried back-to-back three-pointers and Washington, DC native Raphael Jennings knocked down another to help the Mavericks race out to a 16-7 lead almost five minutes into the game. UDC responded with a 15-0 surge that included a three-pointer apiece by Butler, Nickerson and Sidbury, and the Firebirds pulled in front, 22-16 around the 11-and-a-half minute mark. Mercy fought its way back to force two separate ties at 28 and 36, but a layup by UDC's Kameron Outlaw at the two-minute mark was the final scoring of the half by either team, and the Firebirds headed to the locker room up 38-36.
The Firebirds came out the aggressors in the 2nd half, converting five consecutive layups – the first two by Butler and the final three by Williams – to mount a 10-2 run and extend their lead to 48-38 two-and-a-half minutes back into the action. UDC led 55-42 at the 13:22 mark following a layup by Sidbury, but Mercy outscored the Firebirds 18-10 over the next eight minutes, and closed within five after a fast-break layup by Ryan Hickey.
UDC took back control of the game at that point, though, beginning with a layup by reserve Jahkeem Folks off of a feed by Chandler, and that began the Firebirds' 14-4 game-ending march to victory. Chandler connected on his 3rd three-pointer of the day, Sidbury had an emphatic two-handed slam and a three-pointer, and Nickerson made 3-of-4 at the line to aid in this Firebird late-game surge, and UDC went on to win by a 15-point margin.
Next up, UDC will visit league foe Molloy College on Wednesday, February 22nd in Rockville Centre, NY at 7 p.m.